The first meeting of the year took place for the Inclusive Communities diversity advocates — community members looking to create change in the Omaha area.
"A lot of our amazing, qualified young people of color leave because they don't feel like Omaha is as progressive as other cities and we need to change that if we want them to stay here to raise their families and help build Omaha to be a better place," said Tena Hahn-Rodriguez, Business Development Manager, Inclusive Communities.
Kandace Freeman, Program Partner at Inclusive Communities added, "The City of Omaha is a very diverse community and, unfortunately, some of the offices and community people who are the leaders don't represent the people who make up (the city)."
In the group, advocates from different backgrounds, educational levels, and job statuses all work together on equal levels to create equality in every aspect of the community. Thirty-one advocates were selected for this year. There is a lot of talk about equity, diversity and inclusion; this group has been charged with specific and intentional change.
Past advocates say while working to craft change, they also got an education on systemic problems that exist. They say they were treated to key learnings that they never knew were missing in their education.
"We talk about redlining and a lot of different things in this program that I just had no clue about, honestly. And I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to learn that, but then also pivot and say 'Okay, what can we do about this now, how is it affecting us to this day?'" said John Staup of O.P.P.D., a former advocate.
The religious backgrounds, as well as ethnicity of the advocates, are diverse. The professional makeup of the diversity leaders includes teachers, lawyers and people in high-profile positions at major companies.
"So that we have people in power who are able to change policy and create more inclusive workplaces," said Hahn-Rodriguez.
Inclusive Communities hopes to confront prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. You can request a speaker for your group, company or organization as well as volunteer for their upcoming events. Just visit their website at inclusive-communities.org.